Fixing private property not government’s job

News outlets are reporting heavily about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which hit the Mississippi coast on Aug. 29, 2005. Heavy rain from the huge storm overwhelmed the levees surrounding New Orleans, causing flooding that destroyed much of the city.

Five years later, much of the damage still exists, and thousands of people are still waiting for help that was promised them. Many of the anniversary stories reflect the struggles many still endure.

Katrina, followed soon after by another large hurricane, Rita, was a relatively rare event; storms that large and strong don’t happen often, but they do happen. And they needn’t be so big to wreak havoc. Parts of Texas’ Rio Grande Valley are still underwater two months after Hurricane Alex and a second, smaller storm swept through northern Mexico just south of this region. While wind damage was minimal, the rain overfilled Rio Grande watersheds and tributaries and caused flooding through much of the Valley.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is still working with people who are seeking taxpayers’ money to help them repair the damage from these recent storms. But as the tales from Katrina show, those who depend on the government to bail them out might have to wait a while, and they might never get what they’re looking for.

Government funds, despite what some people might think, aren’t in infinite supply. After all, they are taken by force from reluctant workers, and allocated by legislators who fight over whose district gets what and how much.

When disaster strikes, some people will always be left with outstretched hands that are never filled.

Even when money is available, people have to deal with the slow, cumbersome bureaucracy that is our government. About $5.4 billion that Congress provided for Katrina relief — more than a fourth of the total $20 billion allotment — still hasn’t been allocated to the people who need it.

Previous news reports have shown that those who have had the worst time dealing with storms’ aftermath are those who depended most on government aid. Residents who had their own insurance, and Mississippi cities and counties that decided to invest local funds in storm repair, recovered the fastest. Many of them have long resumed their normal lives.

We can’t accurately predict Mother Nature’s whims. That is why it is important to take personal steps to be prepared always, both to mitigate the effects of any storm and to deal with the aftermath.

That means ensuring that our homes are structurally sound, taking whatever precautions are possible when storms approach, and maintaining private insurance or having the means available to repair the damage if something comes our way.

Our homes are our responsibility; it is unreasonable to hope, much less expect, that government will come to rescue whenever something happens to our property.